Friday 21 March 2008

No love lost

We've covered a lot of miles this week. Sharon did a double-header yesterday with a coffee morning show up in Stirlingshire and an evening one down in the south-west, beyond Castle Douglas. She was fairly pooped on her return after midnight but obviously felt she had to keep her numbers up before our week in France.

I had my annual football match outing on Tuesday, heading through to Paisley for the Cup quarter-final replay between St. Mirren and St. Johnstone. The traffic through Glasgow was dead slow and stop and I got to the game 14 minutes late. Just in time to see the Perth Saints volley in an opener, in fact. Ten minutes later they were 3-0 up. They even missed a penalty before the Buddies pulled one back from the penalty spot. Little consolation for what should be the last cup-tie played at Love Street. The ground has been sold and Saints' new stadium is under construction at Greenhill Road in the town.

So that was probably my last visit to Love Street, and typically unsatisfactory. In the last couple of decades, St. Mirren's most memorable performances have probably been away from home. The travelling support are usually more fun too, determined to enjoy the day whatever the outcome. My first outing to a football match was on a sunny day in August 1972, the first day of a new season. St. Mirren, relegated the season before, trounced Brechin City 5-1. I can remember sitting with my Dad on the grass at the top of the Caledonia St. end, surveying the match being played out on the pitch below. My Dad always said I didn't run about and play like most of the other wee boys that had probably been lifted over the turnstiles by fathers and uncles: I was always was interested in the game.

St. Mirren Park gradually lost its oval shape and reduced its capacity over the years. The crowds my Dad used to talk about for matches in the fifties seemed enormous in my day (the Love St. record was about 47,000 and I think there was 108,000 at Hampden for either the 1959 Cup final or semi-final). I can remember us being crushed at the turnstiles for a League Cup quarter-final replay against Celtic in the early 80s when there was 27,000 in the ground, 2,000 more than capacity. These days, with so much televised football, the cost of admission and other diversions for one-time diehards and their offspring, even a match against the Old Firm barely draws 8,000 through the gates.

The one time I set foot on the pitch was thirty years ago when the Glennifer Cubs team visited on a miserable winter's night. The rain was teeming down as the players trained and we were allowed the luxury of trying to kick balls through the puddles and mud at the Love St. end of the oval. I can remember small, net-less metal-framed goals, the reflection of the floodlights on the puddles and getting absolutely soaked. It wasn't particularly inspiring, although I did score 27 goals that season and was player of the year!

I mused on this as the game was played out to its conclusion on Tuesday night. It was more fun than watching the football on show!

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